I always like asking artists to describe a typical day. Perhaps because I am not an artist, I like imagining myself waking up and heading to my studio for a solitary day of visual creation. For Baltimore-based mixed media artist Beth Hoeckel, a typical day sounds pretty reasonable: she works all day and does yoga in the evening. “Sometimes I end up working at night but I prefer to work during daylight,” she says. “I don’t wake up super early, but I don’t like to sleep late either.” Then she shares, “If it is sunny I like to walk around my neighborhood or go to the graveyard.”
Perhaps this surprise shouldn’t come as a surprise. Hoeckel’s work, much of it based around collage, combines seemingly mismatched elements taken from scraps she’s collected, often forcing glossy personas and objects from retro printed matter into otherworldly encounters. Hoeckel says her art conveys “almost all feelings all the time.” By that, she seems to be urging us not to read too much into them—not to explain away their uncanny, unexpected power.
Beth Hoeckel’s work will be on view at the Phantasmagoria group show at IDIO Gallery in Brooklyn, opening January 22, 2016—produced in collaboration with A Women’s Thing.
How did you arrive at the medium of collage?
I started making collages when I was in high school in addition to my photography and painting practice. In college I mostly focused on printmaking. After school I didn’t have the facilities to be able to be serious about printmaking and couldn’t afford any expensive art supplies. So I began to revisit the medium of collage based on a need to create but lack of resources. When I started I was using whatever materials I had around such as old magazines and books. I found that it really resonated with me and my aesthetic so I continued doing it more seriously.
Tell us about the most interesting reactions you’ve gotten from viewers of your work.
Every once in a while something gets misinterpreted and that is interesting to me. Like something I made that to me feels fun and happy can been seen by others and dark and morose. Or something that is meant to be a joke can sometimes be taken seriously. But that’s all part of it, because something that may appear one way on the surface but also holds other layers of meaning. So really any reaction I get is usually is interesting in some way. I’ve been told my work was unnerving which is a description that stuck with me.
Why do you think we’re attracted to things that are old, vintage, nostalgic, not “of the moment”? Were you always drawn to these sorts of images?
Yes, I always was. I feel like I’m one of the most nostalgic people in the world. Sometimes it’s a curse. Sometimes I’d love to be able to just let go and flow freely through life and be very in the moment. I do try to do that in some areas of my life. I’m very intuitive about my attraction to certain things and don’t usually ask myself why—I just know what I like and what I respond to. A big part of my art practice is that I rely very heavily on intuition. I’m very drawn to the energy of older things. I am fascinated by the richness of history within certain items, but also the idea of human sentimentality in general.
All images by Beth Hoeckel
Featured image: The Black Phone, 2013 – 8.5 × 11 in